Wonder of Wonderbly: naming matters for startups

July 10th, 2018  •  3 minute read

Six months ago, I’d never heard of Wonderbly. I was a bushy-tailed want-to-be brand strategist armed with a BA honours and little else. On my first day working for Future Kings Ventures, I was told to read an article about the Tech Track 100 in The Sunday Times. That was my first encounter with the unusually named Wonderbly who came out top of the list. Meanwhile, I was studying for my Masters in Publishing, and the name came up again, this time as a success story in full-stack publishing. And then a week after that, their advert was on my television!

Curiosity peaked, I googled Wonderbly and discovered it’s a personalised children’s book publisher from Hackney founded by three dads and an uncle. Launched in 2012, they’ve since sold nearly £3 million in books and recently won £6 million in series B funding from Ravensburger. Pretty impressive for what started as a side-project between friends.

But it was the name that stuck with me.

Before its rebrand in 2017, Wonderbly was known as Lost My Name, after their first book title. In their own words, they launched ‘a product rather than a company’¹, but soon realised their name made portfolio expansion tricky.

This was my lightbulb moment.

If startups want to scale, they need a brand name flexible enough to encompass all that they are — and all that they could be.

Take Uber. Imagine if they’d called themselves Cab Hailer or Taxi For You. Would there be Uber Eats now? The founders recognised that Uber, at its core, is a technology company that provides transport solutions. The name captures the spirit of their service, but doesn’t place limitations on what they can offer. Their vision was and is broader.

Startups that want to expand their product offering need to avoid pigeonholing themselves, otherwise they’ll have to rebrand later.

Unless of course they’re Carphone Warehouse, who somehow get away with it despite not selling carphones from a warehouse anymore. But they’re an exception, not the rule.

The reality is that rebranding is a risk. And startups can’t risk losing early customers.

Lost My Name were lucky, but they were also smart. They rebranded very publicly and they stuck to the aesthetic of the original product, so it was still recognisable to their customer base. But more than that, they designed their new brand around the same values and ideas.

Wonderbly is an amalgamation of ‘wonderful’ and ‘impossibly’, perfectly summarising their original vision to create ‘impossibly personalized’ children’s books that ‘inspire boundless self-belief in children’². It’s abstract but emotive, new but familiar.

But they needn’t have taken the risk if they’d thought about it earlier.

Having clarity of vision from the start not only helps startups get investment, but also ensures they scale successfully to reach their full potential.

At Future Kings Ventures, we run a Minimum Viable Brand programme that helps startups define who they are and what they stand for, helping them stand out from the competition and organise their business for growth. Naming, as with aesthetic, logo and website design, is a fundamental part of this programme. But, we always start with their core values and ambitions, building their identity from there. That way, our client’s brand and brand name opens doors for them, rather than closing them.